A decision to establish a permanent commission in Baghdad to coordinate U.S., Turkish and Iraqi efforts to fight the terror organization, PKK, signals an important shift in Ankara's policy. Turkey welcomes the outcomes of the trilateral meeting in Baghdad, the Turkish FM said Thursday. (UPDATED)
Turkey, Iraq and the United States agreed Wednesday to form a joint commission to combat the terror organization PKK, which uses northern Iraq as a base for attacks on Turkey.
Turkey has long rejected to negotiate the PKK issue with the Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq, who Ankara accuses of supporting the terror organization.
The inclusion of Iraqi Kurdish officials in Wednesday's talks held in Baghdad represents an important step back for Turkey from its red lines.
The commission will track the threat represented by the PKK to the security and the stability of Turkey and Iraq, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement after the meeting between the delegations headed by U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, visiting Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The commission will also "enact forceful measures to stop all activities undertaken by this organization inside Iraqi territory or in any region adjacent to the Turkish-Iraqi border."
Turkey, provided with intelligence by the United States, stepped up its campaign to crackdown on the PKK both inside Turkey and in northern Iraq, after the terror organization increased its attacks on Turkish soldiers, as well as civilians.
Turkish officials say around 2,000 PKK terrorists are holed up in the mountains of northern Iraq, where they enjoy free movement and use the region to launch cross-border attacks.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, including the EU and the United States.
TURKEY WELCOMES OUTCOMES
Turkey conveyed to both Iraqi and U.S. officials its views on the security pact, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told a joint news conference with his Romanian counterpart Lazar Comanescu in Ankara.
"Turkey has still been fighting against the terrorist organization PKK by cooperating with the United States and Iraq. During yesterday's tripartite meeting, the parties reaffirmed that the PKK is a terrorist organization," he said.
It is normal for Turkey to conduct military operations against the PKK in northern Iraq, as the Iraqi government has limited opportunity and capacity in the region.
"Yesterday's meeting has been quite fruitful. Our friends have been quite satisfied with the outcomes," Babacan added.
He said such meetings would be held in every two months, and added lower committees would gather more frequently.
MORE DETAILS WIHIN 10 DAYS
The three sides have agreed to hammer out details of the commission within 10 days. This means the agreement should be fully in place before Iraq takes control of its own air space when a U.N. Security Council resolution expires at the end of the year.
A U.S. embassy statement also confirmed the commission would coordinate the fight against the PKK and exchange intelligence.
Previous three-way talks had failed to take hold, but the latest effort was different because the Turks had agreed to recognize officials from the Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq as part of the Iraqi delegation, a senior U.S. embassy official told Reuters.
"The Turks acknowledge that the Iraqis are more capable of addressing this issue," he said.
"The Turkish public position is different from the Turkish private position. The Turks have seen action (by Iraq) and they acknowledge that," the U.S. official added.
Turkish officials have expressed concern that Iraq could try to obstruct air strikes when it takes control of its air space after the new year. But the U.S. official said Baghdad has not tried to block limited air strikes in the past.
"The Turks came here very concerned about how they are going to keep up their operations against the PKK," he said.
"As it is, the government of Iraq has chosen not to make an international incident over these actions. They, including the KRG (Kurdish regional government), realize that the PKK is a security threat to Iraq," the U.S. official told Reuters.
But Iraqi officials say Turkey should make a security part with Iraq as the United States did, sources told hurriyet.com.tr.